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The [Friday] Papers

The only explanation I can think of for how Fran Spielman has kept her job so long as the Sun-Times's City Hall reporter is that the mayor somehow has clouted her into her position and for some unknown reason her editors are unable to do anything about it. They must also be under orders not to touch her putrid copy. Because she has no business being a reporter on a high school or college newspaper, much less on a major metropolitan daily. Much less in a city like Chicago that is supposed to be the home of journalism so tough your mother's expressions of love are met with intense skepticism. Boy, those were the days.

Spielman's latest work - an "analysis" titled "Politically, Daley Gets A Gold Medal" - is a doozy. It's also the kind of story that should result in the reassignment of Spielman and her editors - perhaps to the food section - if not the downright firing of such incredible mediocrities.

"Mayor Daley's plan to build a 95,000-seat stadium in Washington Park is a gold-winning political masterstroke," Spielman gushes to open her "analysis."

"By revising his Olympic dream to benefit his native South Side, Daley has changed the subject - and put his African American mayoral challengers on their heels," she writes.

First, the mayor's "Olympic dream" is something he just came up with; he stood firmly against an Olympic bid for years. He certainly wasn't dreaming of the Olympics when he built a Soldier Field he knew wasn't large enough to host major sporting events. So let's drop the hyperbole.

Second, Daley is not a native of the South Side. He grew up in Bridgeport; the Southwest Side is distinctly not the South Side. But Daley's aides must be thrilled at his sudden association with the core of the city's African American community.

Third, Daley has "changed the subject" only so far as reporters like Spielman allow the mayor to dictate to them what the subject is.

Fourth, there is no evidence whatsoever that Daley has put his African American mayoral challengers "on their heels."

"When Jesse Jackson Jr., Dorothy Brown and Bill 'Dock' Walls complain about minority contracting fraud and the city hiring scandal shortchanging blacks or about the 9 percent of city contracts going to African Americans," Spielman continues, "Daley can point to the Olympic motherlode of jobs and contracts yet to come."

Does Fran Spielman think black people are stupid? Or does this passage merely reflect her own stupidity? The notion that the mayor can erase 17 years of neglect in minority contracting with the promise of a 2016 Olympics that is still far from fruition - and that somehow the Olympics will come with the contract reform the mayor has heretofore refused to enact - is just plain idiotic.

"If they try to use $465 million Millennium Park or $655 million Soldier Field as evidence of Daley's myopic focus on downtown development, the mayor can shut them up in a hurry, simply by pointing south," Spielman writes.

Are you kidding me? Pointing at what, the neglected historic park the mayor has suddenly discovered? Wouldn't pointing south prove the point of Daley's critics?

"The mayor has already positioned himself as a champion for development of impovershed black neighborhoods by playing the race card to justify his veto of a big-box minimum wage ordinance," she goes on.

Oh Lord, make it stop!

Journalists should never approve of politicians "positioning" themselves. Aside from that, how can she approve of the mayor playing a race card that didn't exist? The mayor should be castigated for his big-box racial play. And how can he be a champion for impovershed black neighborhoods that have languished in his 17 years in office by vetoing higher wages for those residents who might be lucky enough to get jobs at big box stores? In neighborhoods that have languished under his tenure for 17 years? He's suddenly a champion of those neighborhoods? All you have to do is point north to show how absurd that argument is.

An alternative analysis not whispered to Spielman by the mayor's aides might read: "Mayor Daley's proposal to build an Olympic stadium in Washington Park is just the latest sign that mayor feels vulnerable in the upcoming election and is bent on shoring up African American support even as he exposes himself to charges of hypocrisy and racial exploitation."

Instead, we get this: "The strength of Daley's South Side coup was evident in the somewhat muted response from his challengers."


Then why does the headline across the top of the Tribune's Metro section say "Daley Gets Olympic Slam"? ("In a jab at Daley, Jackson said he was 'pleased the mayor, after 17 years, is contemplating building new infrastructure on the South Side,'" the Tribune reported.)

Spielman goes on to say that "Daley has a mixed record on glitzy, big-ticket projects." But the projects she cites are all evidence of the mayor's propensity to botch big projects. There is no "mixed" to it. "O'Hare Airport expansion is a work in progress," she writes kindly - the truth is it's a mess. "He delivered on Millennium Park, Soldier Field, Midway Airport and the 911 emergency center, albeit with massive overrruns on each." Massive overruns on each means he delivered? And is anyone happy with the boondoggle that is Soldier Field, which, ironically, the mayor built too small to host the Olympics (or a Super Bowl) because he hadn't yet had his Olympic dream yet? The further irony is that if Soldier Field were a viable Olympic venue, Chicago would probably be a shoo-in with the United States Olympic Committee - and the mayor wouldn't had to have discovered the black people living on the South Side whose park he now wants to wreck to show how much he loves them.

Spielman ends her story saying "By pinning his Olympic hopes on the South Side, Daley appears to be a political winner, no matter what happens on the international stage - so long as he can convince South Side community leaders locked out of the process until now to accommodate the secrecy demanded by the U.S. Olympic Committee to come along for the ride. "

South Side community leaders have been locked out of the process because of the USOC's demand for secrecy? I have no doubt this line was fed to hear by the mayor's people trying to cover their tracks, and Spielman is happy to hand her notebook over to them to tell whatever story they would like.

After all, plenty of downtown folks have somehow not been locked out of the process until now. In fact, they've been driving the process.

A City Hall reporter in the nation's third-largest city has quite a bit of influence on that city's civic life, and it's been abundantly clear for years that Spielman, the paper's stenographer-in-chief, isn't only not up to the task, but is consistently guilty of journalistic malpractice. Her editors are even more responsible, because they let this garbage into their paper. With few exceptions, the majority of the Sun-Times, in fact, needs to be sent back to school to learn how to be journalists. This is an embarrassment and an outrage, and they ought to be ashamed.

In Today's Reporter
* See The [Thursday] Papers for the first day of Spielman's spoon-fed cheerleading.

* See Scott Gordon's terrific summary of the CTA's latest woes - color-coded line by color-coded line.

* Our hapless but witty football reporter is back with a new Orange & Blue Kool-Aid Report and a new Over/Under. Predict for yourself whether he can get a game right this week.

* Mad at the Sun-Times? Cancel your subscription and buy a Beachwood membership instead.

Coming Soon
* The new editor of the Sun-Times is the old editor of the Sun-Times, back for more. Which means more shenanigans unworthy of a Chicago newspaper - or even a letter home.

* The world according to Dennis FitzSimons, CEO of Tribune Company.

* Why the secret slogan of Dem insiders is "Blagojevich in '06, Quinn in '07."

* A bunch of other stuff - electricity rates, the skinny black pant, and the FBI's raid on Cook County government - that I haven't had room for this week. I'll try to get to it all.

The Beachwood Tip Line: Open all weekend.


Posted on September 22, 2006

MUSIC - Lyric Opera Strike An Old Story.
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BOOKS - Conway Barbour & The Black Middle Class.

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